Our team arrived at Mineralnye Vody after taking a 3 hour flight south from St Petersburg. We were greeted to rain, which was a big contrast to the unseasonably warm weather we experienced in St. Petersburg. The rain stayed with us for most of the 3 hour drive to our hotel in the village of Chegit. This village is located in the Baksan Valley region of the Caucuses mountains. This mountain range is situated in between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea right on the border with the country of Georgia. Remotely located, this destination offers beautiful scenery from glacial fed rivers that feed into the valley floor to high glaciated peaks. The scenery promises to get increasingly spectacular as we move higher on Mt Elbrus.
Upon arrival we learned that the weather is forecasted to be stormy until July 25 then it is supposed to clear. This should not slow down our acclimatization schedule. We can still take hikes in stormy weather.
Our plan is to take several hikes at increasingly higher elevation to acclimate ourselves to the thin air we will be climbing in on summit day. This should set us up well for a summit attempt sometime early next week, which is when the weather is supposed to get sunny.
Our team woke from our hotel on July 23. We were greeted to rainy weather as we ate a breakfast consisting of eggs, cheese, bread, peanut butter, and jam. We then loaded light packs with clothing, snacks, and water for the day. We drove 15 minutes up to the base of Mt Elbrus where we rode a gondola onto the flanks of the mountain. This region has several ski resorts that operate during the winter / spring months. One of them is located on the lower slopes of Mt Elbrus, similar to how Mt Hood in Oregon is laid out with a ski resort at its base.
As we began our hike the rain stopped and we were treated to sunny warm weather with partly cloudy skies. We hiked up to 13,200 feet. We took several breaks along the way which gave us opportunity to refuel our bodies and enjoy the scenery. From this vantage point we could see the twin peaks of Mt Elbrus above. In the opposite direction we could look across the Baksan Valley into the country of Georgia.
As time moved from morning to the afternoon clouds began getting thicker and at 2:30 it started to rain. We had gained plenty of elevation for the day though so after putting on rain jackets and pants the decision was made to descend. By the time we reached the gondola station at 9700 feet the rain had abated.
Returning to our hotel we used the afternoon to organize our gear for subsequent days. Tomorrow we plan to move up and sleep on the mountain as we continue acclimatizing. We will base ourselves out of a hut at 13,451′, 4100m.
While enjoying a dinner of lamb and chicken kebobs, fresh vegetable salad, potatoes, and rice we reflected back on what a great hike we had. We are excited with anticipation for the coming days ahead.
We also want to acknowledge all our loved ones, family, and friends who have been keeping us in their thoughts and prayers back home. Your support is felt all the way over here deep in Russia 11 time zones away from California. Thank you!!